La Digue du Braek, Muppets Island – click any image for full size
“The warehouse at the back is fun,” Cube Republic told me, when passing me the landmark to La Digue du Braek last week – and it is. Sitting at the “back” of the region (in terms of how you reach it if you follow the road), it’s a veritable curiosity shop, stacked with bric-a-brac and topped by a chandeliered club house.
La Digue du Braek is the work of Serene Footman, responsible for the stark beauty of Furillen (which you can read about here and here), and his SL partner, Jade Koltai. Like that design, it is based on a physical world location, in this case the 7 kilometre long headland sitting between the English Channel and the working port area of the Dunkerque grand littoral intercommunity in Hauts-de-France.
It is on the seaward side this headland, known for the long road running along it, that visitors arrive in the region. The air is heavy with haze, and a short walk up and over the dunes is required to find the road. This brings into view the Canal de Bourbourg, which runs between the headland and the busy port, the shadowy bulk of which can be seen through the haze. The road itself sits at the foot of the dunes, running east from the maw of a tunnel before turning south to enter the port via a metal bridge. A ruined house and ageing pillbox, reminders of Dunkerque’s physical history, watch over the road.
Like the sky under which it sits, the port is grey and tired looking, colours muted by years of work, the drabness seems only relieved by the bright colours of the containers stacked in their three wall-like rows. Ships are berthed alongside the wharf, their tired engines belching oily smoke up through their funnels to add to the haze of the sky. Tall cranes stand against the skyline like giant one-legged stick figures with oddly disproportionate arms, while the rounded bulk of oil storage tanks squat around their feet.
This is a busy place – but it is also one with certain incongruities which offer interest spiked with a little intrigue. It may be a working port, but the local power substation appears to be in a state of disrepair and no longer connected to the main power grid. Further along the wharf, near the bulk of the warehouse, sit the wrecks of crashed trucks and vans, their broken and damaged remains apparently ignored; then there is the curiosity shop of the warehouse itself, complete with television eyes watching all who come and go.
But perhaps the most unusual part of the region lies close to port entrance. It is a great iron frame which rises into the sky to rival the tallest of the cranes. Metal stairways connect its multiple levels, within each of which sits at least one old mobile home or prefab. It forms a vertical trailer park, a place anyone who has read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One will doubtless recognise.
La Digue du Braek is another atmospheric build; one rooted in the physical world but with interesting twists of the unexpected. It stands both on its own and as a companion to Furillen, and I’ve little doubt those who have enjoyed the latter will enjoy a visit here – and if you’ve not visited either La Digue du Braek or Furillen, now is the time to drop into both!
- La Digue du Braek (Muppets Island, rated: Adult)